MITCHELL – There’s a sport that’s grown steadily within the Mitchell community over the past decade and anyone, regardless of age or athletic ability, can participate.
Pickleball took over Hitchcock Park every Wednesday night in the summer from 6-8 p.m. and weekday mornings from 8:30 a.m.
Gayle Klein, a former Mitchell High School teacher and tennis coach, helped introduce Mitchell to pickleball years ago. Throughout her 33-year tenure as a teacher, Klein went to a convention where there was a demonstration of how to play pickleball. She took what she learned and introduced it into the physical education curriculum at MHS.
Ten years ago, a group of friends, whom Klein knew lived in Mitchell but wintered in Arizona, offered to bring the equipment needed to host friendly pickleball games at Hitchcock Park. This group, including Klein, helped launch the sport in Mitchell which has since grown.
What was once a small group became the Mitchell Pickleball Association, which became official in October 2021. The association, led by President Bonnie Cole and Secretary Gayle Klein, has 60 members and has brought together nearly 100 people who play throughout the year.
As a growing sport, the association is working to grow even more and bring six pickleball courts to Hitchcock Park in the near future.
“We’re partnering with the city and the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department to build courts,” Klein said. “I ran a league as part of our fundraiser and we also have a raffle with Modern Woodmen. We’ve sold court sponsorships, we’re applying for grants, and we’re doing whatever we can to help.
In an attempt to raise $150,000, the city will provide half and the association looks for ways to cover its end. Finding his half of the funding, Klein said that even if they play on the wrong size court with the wrong lines with the wrong net, everyone can still get out there and enjoy some friendly competition.
“I want everyone to go out and have fun and understand that anyone can play this sport,” Klein said. “It’s a sport that can be played at any level. A beginner or an advanced player can play it and you can get whatever you want out of it, whether you’re a recreational social player or a more competitive player. seeking to participate in a tournament.
A sport similar to tennis, pickleball is played on an almost identical but smaller court and is played with a paddle rather than a racquet. Mitchell resident Travis Kriens said pickleball is a sport for anyone of any age.
“In April 2021 I saw a band playing in the upstairs gym at Corn Palace and after trying I’ve been playing ever since,” Kriens said. “It’s something to do for young and old and no matter how old you are. There were people who played from the age of 14 until the age of 80. It’s more about skill level and although many of us don’t have a tennis background, it’s easy to understand and the more you play the better you get.
Minnesota native Sarah Zaiser, who played tennis in high school and graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University, said she heard about pickleball being played at Mitchell from a co-worker in July 2021. After playing the sport a times, she got hooked and would play pickleball every day. if she could.
“Playing pickleball not only feeds my tennis itch, but also my competitive itch,” Zaiser said. “As an athlete, when you get out of college and you don’t really compete anymore, this sport provides healthy competition. … Pickleball is still fun and the competition is friendly compared to other sports which can be more hostile.
Other states and even other communities like Sioux Falls compete competitively and non-competitively in pickleball. With the proper funding, Mitchell could very well be the next community to do so. Leonard Red Hair, a new Mitchell resident who left Utah last month, said that in his short stay at Mitchell so far, he’s seen different faces every time he comes to play and hope this continues.
“I would love to see it get competitive and serious like it’s happening in Utah and other states,” Red Hair said. “A lot of people show up here on Wednesday nights, so it’s going in the right direction. I think it’s going to continue in that direction and I think people realize how much fun it really is.
Those looking to get involved in pickleball can check out the Mitchell Pickleball Association group on Facebook.